Posts Tagged ‘American Psycho’

Duncan Sheik has chosen some diverse subjects for his musicals. Teenage repression and angst in late 19th Century Germany, to a rock score, in Spring Awakening. A serial killer who also happens to be an investment banker in American Psycho. Now civil rights in South Carolina in the early 1960’s.

Lily lives with her widowed father who beats her. The family’s black housekeeper Rosaleen, also treated badly, has become her mother figure. They’ve had enough of the abuse and go on the run. They are befriended by the Boatwright family, three sisters called August June & May, who keep bees and make honey. Though only initially for a week, their stay is extended, Lily takes to bee-keeping and assists their permanent keeper Zak, and Rosaleen helps around the house.

It’s not long before racism arrives on their doorstep when Zak is arrested and beaten in trumped up charges involving Lily, despite her denial that anything out of order took place. Meanwhile June, who has been romantically pursued by school teacher Neil for many years accepts his proposal. It turns out the Boatwright sisters knew Lily’s mum, but its not entirely clear how or when. Her dad eventually finds her but taking her back isn’t going to be easy.

Though I haven’t read Sue Monk Kidd’s novel or seen the film made of it, I felt Lynn Nottage’s book was a bit rushed, leaving too much unclear or untold. I’ve loved the four plays of hers I’ve seen, but this is a book / libretto for a musical, requiring different skills. Perhaps its because there are a lot of songs to get through, which dominate the show, though its hard to complain about that as they are so good, choruses soaring and solos shining. You’d been hard pressed to find vocals as consistently good as this on any stage. The score starts in rock mode before taking on big ballads and rousing gospel.

It’s a lovely story, juxtaposing the serene gentleness of the Boatwrights and their friends with the anger and racism in the wider community. Beautifully staged and performed, it continues the Almeida’s roll – Patriots, Tammy Faye, Streetcar – with Rebecca Frecknall’s Romeo & Juliet on the horizon exciting me already. So don’t be surprised if this joins them in the West End, but see it now in the more intimate surroundings of the Almeida.

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This show is written by Duncan Sheik, the man who gave us the ground-breaking musical Spring Awakening, a critical and commercial hit on Broadway, a critical hit but commercial flop in the West End (I should know, I lost a wardrobe full of shirts on it). This comes between that and his excellent musical adaptation of American Psycho at the Almeida Theatre. I therefore had high hopes for this.

Set on the East coast of the USA during the second world war, Lily continues the family tradition of running the lighthouse, a more significant role now that German U-boats are off the coast. Lily’s young nephew Christopher is sent to stay with her, something neither of them are happy with. Christopher is even less happy with the fact his aunt has a Japanese helper, Yasuhiro, as his dad was shot down by a Japanese plane, so he’s pleased when the local sheriff apprehends him in line with US government’s policy regarding nationals of Germany, Italy & Japan. The other two characters are ghosts, apparently of people who died through the negligence of Lily’s ancestors.

It’s a vey slight piece, with undistinguished music, that falls flat and goes nowhere. The best song comes after the curtain call, sung by the ghosts. I liked the way designer Andrew Riley has reconfigured the space and the staging, performances and onstage band were fine. It runs for just 80 minutes, plus a totally unnecessary interval, no doubt for the usual commercial reasons. I just didn’t engage with it at all, and I’m a bit puzzled as to why they’ve bothered to put it on. Oh, and there’s another of those programme notes about it resonating more post-Trump. Yawn…..


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The Scottsboro Boys – Kander & Ebb’s masterpiece at the Young Vic, perfectly staged and performed

American Psycho – 80’s satire gets a musical adaptation and a stunning production at the Almeida

Glasgow Girls – gritty stuff from Scotland in London’s home of grittiness, the Theatre Royal Stratford

Titanic – an underated musical thrillingly staged at Southwark Playhouse

Rooms – A Rock Romance – just as thrilling, but just two people falling in and out of love on a tiny stage

The Committments – a huge stage for Roddy Doyle’s infectious slice of working class Ireland set to soul music. The only West End show in my list!

The Colour Purple – the Menier on fine form in one of a large number of summer highlights for black theatre

One Touch of Venus – a pub theatre in Walthamstow shows Opera North how to do Weill

…and lots of lovely evenings at the Union and the Landor.


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